09/04/2012 01:39 EDT | Updated 11/04/2012 05:12 EST

Saskatchewan NDP talks of rebuilding as it launches search for new leader

REGINA - Saskatchewan New Democrats are tightening the rules of membership as the party launches a search for its next leader.

Former member of the legislature Deb Higgins, who is the chair of the leadership committee, announced the race rules Tuesday in Regina. Higgins said people can no longer buy memberships for those outside the family and campaign teams will have to review memberships turned in by their volunteers.

"There will be a responsibility and an accountability that will go back to the candidate and the members of his team. We feel that that's important," she said.

"We learn from every leadership that's happened over the years, so this is a new step. But it is something, I think, that's been well thought out and I think it will serve us well in the future."

RCMP received a complaint that some NDP membership applications submitted during the party's leadership campaign in 2009 were forged. About 1,100 members of the Flying Dust and Waterhen Lake First Nations were signed up without their consent or knowledge.

The memberships were all paid for by Dwain Lingenfelter's campaign.

A report commissioned by the NDP said Lingenfelter's campaign did not direct or condone the activity of what he said at the time was that of an "overexuberant" volunteer. The volunteer later pleaded guilty to attempting to utter forged documents and was fined $3,000.

Lingenfelter won the leadership, but resigned after the election last fall when he lost his seat and the party dropped to nine seats in the 58-seat legislature.

Interim leader John Nilson has said he will not seek the top job.

Current members of the legislature Cam Broten from Saskatoon and Trent Wotherspoon from Regina have said they're giving a leadership bid serious consideration. Economist Erin Weir is also weighing his options.

Higgins said it may be time for a generational shift in leadership as the party looks to challenge Brad Wall, a popular premier whose Saskatchewan Party won a record 64 per cent of the popular vote in last election.

"(There) probably is a need for someone younger than us more mature folks. But it's up to the party and the membership to decide who captures their imagination and who best expresses what they feel is important for Saskatchewan," she said.

The NDP plans to hold 14 debates across the province before ballots are cast for the next leader March 9.